LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
The 882nd Training Group has been leaving Sheppard Air Force Base piece-by-piece over the past few months. Now, on Oct. 3 at precisely 9:37 a.m., the organization becomes the 937th Training Group at its new location in nearby Fort Sam Houston.
A new organization under Lackland's 37th Training Wing, the group's mission is to provide mission-ready healthcare personnel by developing, conducting and evaluating military and medical training. The three training squadrons under the group are responsible for Air Force officer and enlisted medical training as well as the training of Department of Defense medics to support worldwide warfighter capabilities.
The move from Wichita Falls, Texas, to San Antonio was part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission law, which required the consolidation of medical training for all service branches at Fort Sam Houston. The intention of the decision was to improve training efficiencies by sharing the training resources throughout the military branches at one location.
"This is an exciting moment in time for the group and for the wing," said Col. Eric Axelbank, commander of the 37th Training Wing.
"We have this opportunity to infuse our vision of the training standard of excellence across a broad array of technical training courses. We are building a solid foundation for the future of Air Education and Training Command that is leaner, more combat focused and vectored to meet the demands placed on tomorrow's Air Force," said Axelbank.
"I look forward to partnering with the Medical Education and Training Center in producing the highest quality mission-ready healthcare personnel," he added.
People are also a consideration and, as with any decision of this magnitude, the workforce went through changes. Of the 56 civilians assigned to the group at Sheppard, two transferred to San Antonio to continue to serve with the group, bringing more than 50 new civil service jobs to hire from the San Antonio community.
With nearly 400 military personnel assignments and an average daily student load of over 1,500, the training group brings nearly 2,000 new consumers to the San Antonio economy.
Col. Lista Benson, commander of the 882nd Training Group, believes the move and transition to the training wing, while a tremendous undertaking, is an opportunity to build strength in the group's mission as it moves into the future.
"We built a very strong leadership, training and support staff. We are meeting the challenges of integrating the Air Force component of the service medical training consistent with the 37th Training Wing's vision of training excellence," said Benson. "I think this is an exciting time for Air Force medical training as we explore our potential and take advantage of our position as the newest addition to the Air Force's largest training wing.
"We are competitive by nature and look forward to making our mark as we move into the future," she added.
That future has a history spanning decades and one can only say, "Welcome home."
The training group's roots are traceable to the earliest moments in history when aviation took hold as something of interest to the U.S. Army. Aerospace medicine was in its infancy but the Army saw a need for it as a specialty in military medicine.
In 1942, the group's home was nearby Kelly Field at the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Training Center. There were more moves ahead as Air Force medical training sought to bring coherence to the many medical training courses it taught in various locations around the country, including Randolph Air Force Base, Brooks AFB and Fort Sam Houston. It wasn't until after the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as an independent service in September 1947 that Air Force medical training would unite many, but not all, of its training courses at Gunter AFB in Montgomery, Ala. On Oct. 16, 1950, October 1950, Air Force medical training would exist as an organized unit.
The winds of change were not tempered by the success of the group at Gunter AFB. Air Force medical training, despite the intentions of centralizing it, was still organizationally fractured with elements of training occurring at scattered locations around the country. They simply outgrew the facilities at Gunter and had to find a new home.
In early 1966, the group pulled up stakes and moved to Sheppard AFB, its home for 45 years.
While Sheppard had ample space for the medical training group, facilities left much to be desired as the buildings were of WWII-era construction and not in the best of shape.
The group went through many periods of expansion and contraction over those years as the demand for medical personnel changed with the nation's needs to support the war in Vietnam, adding medical support capabilities to transfer and realignment of missions.
The group always adapted to the dynamic environment and never faltered in fulfilling its charter of graduating quality Airmen.
The medical training group, though located on Fort Sam, joins four other training groups under the 37th TRW at Lackland, stoutly reinforcing the 37th TRW's status as the largest wing in the Air Force with more than 14,000 personnel assigned.